In this latest interview with Billy Corgan, the South China Morning Post spoke with the grunge icon before his 1st trip to Hong Kong on August 13th. The interview travels from the Pumpkin brand to Corgan’s spirituality to talent.
Billy first explains how he believes China is the future of rock n roll:
“For the last 50 years, the majority of rock’n’roll artists in the world have had to sing in English, because the Western world dictates what is legitimate in rock’n’roll,”. He continued “But once that’s flipped economically and socially to, say, China, you’ll have artists lining up to sing in Chinese because they will all want to penetrate that market. And that would instantly become the number one market in the world”.
About the Smashing Pumpkins brand:
“You create a brand, and then people come to engage with that brand for a particular kind of experience. Whether you can create that experience or whether you can involve them in that experience becomes part of the challenge. Because you no longer have access to what’s called a familiar identity,” Corgan says of the way the Pumpkins are today. “It’s my job to present an evolution of the identity that keeps it fresh. You have to be [savvy] because that’s the way to survive. The Pumpkins have had to survive [various line-up changes].”
Challenges of playing Hong Kong:
“If I’m standing there, and my life is reduced to playing ‘rat in a cage’,” he says in a reference to the famed Pumpkins single Bullet with Butterfly Wings, “for someone like me that’s going to cause an existential crisis. Think about this – I’m singing this song that [someone] wants to hear about how I’m trapped in the paradigm of expectation, and that’s the expectation to continue playing that song.”
“When I step onstage in Hong Kong, I will assume that 85 to 95 per cent of the audience knows about five per cent of the material. They’re only gonna know the top 10 to 15 songs. That puts me in a very difficult situation, because you’re there to play, obviously you’re there to entertain; but to make an artistic statement going off the grid, knowing that they only know 10 to 15 songs, you’re going to basically have an audience that might as well be listening to a band they have never heard of.”
“I didn’t go into it with any emotional perspective. I think it’s probably more inclusive of both sides of my personality, as opposed to just the darker one.”
His spiritual side:
“Peace comes from knowing you’re standing on more solid ground. [For example] why do we love animals? Because they’re honest. They love us unconditionally, and there’s something really beautiful about that. We want to have this idea, we want to know that we won’t be abandoned.”
Billy feeling on Technology and the way it has affected rock ‘n’ roll:
“I don’t read any blogs. I have almost no contact with modern culture. I avoid it like the plague,” he says, adding that the demands of today’s audiences are not easy to meet. “Technology has shifted the power from the artist to the consumer. I don’t think this is good … it’s been good for selling computers and iPads, but it’s been bad for rock’n’roll.”
“Music is its own worst enemy, because it takes people like me, who are talented and able to sell things and generate resources, and demonises them because I don’t do it the way somebody else would. And then it turns around and celebrates the artistic genius of somebody with one-tenth of my talent who makes an album in a basement on their laptop, who can barely get out the door.”
The big picture:
“When you’ve been in the business for as long as I have, it’s easy to be jaded, it’s very easy to be disheartened. I’ve suffered more loss than gain. I’ve obviously had to work through a lot of my life in public, and it’s helped me to understand that music is part of who I am. The Smashing Pumpkins are a part of who I am. … But it’s not who I am. It doesn’t define me to my core. My public life, for better or for worse, is an extension of who I am now.”